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This year’s Social Work Day (SWD) was celebrated on 19 March under the theme ‘Buen Vivir’ that carries significant importance for social services. Buen Vivir is a concept rooted in indigenous and Latin American philosophies, emphasising holistic wellbeing, harmony with nature, and community solidarity. 

There are many reasons as to why this theme is crucial for social services:

  • Holistic Approach: This concept promotes a holistic approach to well-being, recognising that individuals cannot thrive in isolation from their communities. Social services adopting this approach prioritise not only meeting people’s personal needs but working together to foster community and social connections as well as sustainability.
  • Participation and Empowerment: Buen Vivir prioritises participation and empowerment of individuals in communities. Social services embracing this principle actively involve members in the community in co-design and co-production programmes that include identifying their needs, designing programmes, and evaluating outcomes. This participatory approach enhances the effectiveness and sustainability of social service programmes.
  • Environmental Sustainability: This approach acknowledges the relationship and interconnectedness human wellbeing has with the immediate and wider environment. Social services embracing this principle integrate environmental sustainability into their practice and contribute to building resilient communities that help prepare populations and the workforce to mitigate the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations.
  • Inclusion: The Buen Vivir framework emphasises the importance of respecting diverse cultural values. For social services, this means adopting culturally sensitive practices that acknowledge the unique perspectives and traditions of the communities they serve, thereby promoting inclusivity and reducing disparities.
  • Social Justice and Equity: Social services informed by this principle work to address systemic inequalities and empower people in situations of vulnerability to access resources and develop opportunities protecting children from harm or abuse, helping develop integrated social inclusion pathways or supporting people with long-term needs to live in their homes and communities. By promoting equitable distribution of resources and future prospects for vulnerable populations, social workers contribute to building a more just society.
  • Long-Term Wellbeing: Buen Vivir encourages a focus on long-term wellbeing rather than short-term outcomes. Social services adopting this perspective prioritise strategies that promote sustainable development, resilience, and intergenerational equity, ensuring that future generations can also enjoy a high quality of life.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The Buen Vivir framework encourages collaboration across disciplines and sectors to address complex social, economic, and environmental challenges. Social services benefit from partnerships with diverse agencies, including government authorities, non-profit organizations, academia, and indigenous communities, fostering innovative solutions and cooperation.

We publish our 2023 Annual Review of activities that align with this year’s Social Work Day theme ‘Buen Vivir’ and its values of inclusive, sustainable and holistic social services to promote thriving communities across Europe.

ESN’s Annual Review themes of developing community caremanaging social services demandsocial services quality principlestechnology in promoting autonomy and inclusion, and person-centred care offer valuable insights for social services in Europe and worldwide. This is particularly the case for addressing pressing global issues such as inequality, social exclusion and the promotion of people’s autonomy and wellbeing.

As with the 2024 Social Work Day connection to Buen Vivir, ESN’s  activities and themes throughout last year underscore the importance of adopting holistic, inclusive and sustainable social services that contribute to building resilient communities, promotes social justice, and advances the wellbeing of all individuals and communities across Europe and beyond.